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Kalle Dixelius, Toffs bok (Toff's Book)

Ordfront,  2009. ISBN: 9789170373961

Reviewed by Gunnel Minett in SBR 2010:1

This book is a story within a story, within a story. On the surface it is an account of the finding of a historic book in Sweden in the 2460s. This book provides a link back to Swedish history, before ‘the big disaster’ that somehow wiped out any trace of history. A second layer is about Stockholm in the 2200s and how Sweden has been changed for the worse by this unknown event. It is obvious that something big has taken place some time in the past. While totally devastating the country, it has not left a trace of how and why this happened. In the book that has been found, an author writes autobiographically, describing a life much harsher than that lived in contemporary Sweden. How-ever, his writing focuses on his inner life, how he falls in love, builds friendships and gradually changes his perspective on his life. In Toff’s world, people are left fighting for survival in an environment filled with hardship. Families are dysfunctional, with violence, alcohol and a lack of food dominating the picture. Positive relationships are rare in this distinctly dog-eat-dog environment where the ruling classes treat the workers with the type of contempt that we normally associate with slavery. In spite of this tough life, people in the lower strata of society show remarkable resilience and a willingness to fight for something better. Although the setting for the book bears no resemblance to contemporary Sweden, it seems to have a lot in common with the ‘urban jungle’ scenario often presented in films and music. Like so many Hollywood movies set in the future, this is no rosy, futuristic dream of a better place – rather a depiction of a future far worse than today. Possibly, there is an intention in Toffs bok to warn us about the fundamental problems of the world today. With increasing age segregation in many Western societies it should not be a surprise if younger generations are more or less left to fend for themselves in a harsh modern jungle where they have to rely on friends rather than family. If it were not for its positive core, this book would be a depressing read. But the engaging honesty of the author’s writing and the strong central characters offer a real sense of hope – for even in the worst possible environ-ment, their inner sense of wanting things to be better cannot be extinguished. Despite the risk of severe punishment, Toff’s urge to write and tell his story keeps growing stronger until he is prepared to risk everything to pursue it. In many ways, Toffs bok is a modern version of our very oldest stories based on traditional themes. The story of a young man living in poor conditions who feels a strong inner urge to embark on a dangerous and often life-threatening quest in search of a deeper meaning in life has been told many times before. This gives strength to the narrative, and it is reassuring to recognise that even if the future looks bleak for many of us, the inner spirit still seems able to survive and take us in a more positive direction.

Gunnel Minett

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